I know. The title of this post is a little out there. But, if you’ve been following our site long enough you know- if some sort of unusual or freak incident can occur while our family is traveling- IT WILL. So yes, we got trapped in a motel room. Here’s how it all went down (and how we lived to tell about it…)

Several years ago we were returning home from a lengthy trip. We changed the kids into PJ’s at our dinner stop and settled in for the last 3 hour leg of our trip. Admittedly, snow was in the forecast. But we lived in Chicago during the winter of the Polar Vortex so snow was ALWAYS in the forecast. (If we’d waited for a different weather report, we would have waited until May.)

Snow began falling. Slowly other cars exited the highway and eventually we realized it was basically us and the snow plow. But things were going well. My husband found that although our speed was slow, if we stayed right behind the snow plow, we were very safe. Knowledge that we were only 2 hours from home, and (over) confidence in the snow plow kept us on the road.

But then it REALLY started snowing. The girl from the south learned very quickly what the term “white out conditions” means. We could barely see the end of our own car. Snow was coming down so thick that our wipers couldn’t keep up.

And then the snow plow stopped. Like swooped onto the shoulder of the interstate and stopped.

For about a minute we sat there behind it dumbfounded. But the story suddenly felt WAY too familiar. Although the circumstances were completely different, it had only been about a year since we’d gotten trapped in our car on an interstate for 10+ hours (read all about that adventure, here.) Let me just tell you, it’s not something you let happen twice!

So although we could barely see the road, we forged ahead- determined to make it to the closest exit. As we finally approached it we missed all the signs telling us the hotels found at that exit. In the blizzard-like conditions, it first appeared to be a total ghost town. We somehow made our way to this little run-down motel a few blocks from the interstate.

At the risk of sounding like a total snob, I will simply say that it isn’t a place we’d typically choose to stay. It was in ROUGH condition. But, being our only option for the evening we took a room and tried to convince ourselves that it was better than spending the night trapped in our car on the interstate.

Of course, none of us slept well and when the first sunlight peeked through the curtain we got up- anxious to get on the road and get home. In less than 10 minutes we’d dressed and repacked the small suitcase we’d brought in. But when we went to open the door, the handle didn’t budge.

It took us a few minutes to figure out what was going wrong (remember, we’re true Southerners)- but finally it occurred to us that the snow had blown against our door all night and frozen the door handle. We were trapped in our motel room.

Naturally, I began looking for a heavy object to throw through our window- allowing us a way to climb out to safety. But, my much more level-headed husband reminded me that we were actually safe in the room and we could call the front desk for help. (I mean, seriously, I am the world’s worst person to be stuck in an “emergency” with…that never even occurred to me!)

Unfortunately his plan didn’t unfold as well as he thought because the phone just rang and rang. After being reminded that there was no actual urgency to our situation, we flipped on a cartoon and settled back in. Every 10 minutes- or so- we tried the front desk. After quite a while, I finally had Brent convinced to let me call 911 if we weren’t “rescued” by a certain time. But- someone (apparently even more crazy than me!) beat me to it.

In the aftermath we learned that the (mostly empty) motel had about 6 other rooms where people woke up trapped. Someone alerted emergency services and it was discovered that because of the weather the next shift front desk employee didn’t show- thus leaving the front desk completely unstaffed! The fire department was able to pour hot water over all of our handles until they thawed enough to be opened.

A pretty good amount of snow came down while we slept!

Just like when we got stuck in our car on the side of the mountain in our other snowy travel disaster, Brent and I kept looking at each other saying “well, this will make for a good story some day.”

Ironically, as soon as we were “free” I realized I had no true desire to go out into the cold so I made Brent go start the car while the kids and I watched another cartoon. Then when we finally got to our car- hours later than expected- we pulled out of the parking lot and saw a towering 6-story, brand new hotel. HOTEL. As in, the door handles were all on the inside of the building! Apparently in the white-out conditions we’d completely missed the other lodging!

If you enjoyed this tale of our misadventures, you might also like:

The Time I Jumped Out of an Airplane 

And NOW I can Handle Anything

Canada: Crossing The Border

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